Shiny and the Spoon: Box of Bullets

May 27, 2014

I've been doing this local music review gig for almost a year now and I have learned that trying to produce one piece each week can be a very interesting challenge.  

It seems like just about every band in town locks themselves away throughout the winter to hibernate in their separate recording studios and to work on a new release.  Then in spring, like the crocuses, daffodils and irises in my wife's flower garden, there is suddenly a colorful explosion of new music and I find myself weeks - if not months - behind in reviewing some band's 'new' release.

Such is the case with Shiny and the Spoon's Box of Bullets.

In July 2012, Shiny and the Spoon gained national attention when their cover of A-ha's "Take on Me" went viral on YouTube.

Since then, the band has worked diligently to craft Box of Bullets, an album that is as American as eating a warm slice of peach pie (with ice cream, of course!) on the back porch while you watch the summer sun going down.

I doubt that I'm the first to make this comparison, but Jordan Neff's vocals, particularly in the songs "I Don't Like It" and "Explain," resonate with a warmth and sweetness that bring to mind a young James Taylor.

Similarly, Amber Nash, if it were ever asked of her, could stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Alison Krauss or Emmylou Harris.

When you combine their strong and unique vocal abilities (The Historic Southgate House compared them to Johnny Cash and June Carter) with Nash's talent for ukulele and Neff's for guitar -- and THEN top that off with the magnificent rhythm section of Pete Brown on upright bass and Matt Frazer on drums -- the entire compliment of musicians mesh so well and tug so eloquently at your heartstrings that you might not know whether to tap your toes or to cry in your beer.

Given the title, the theme of bullets (and guns in general) seems to be a repeating motif in the lyrics of the album, and in the opening track, "Someday Love," and the majority of the songs on Box of Bullets, the overall poetry and sound leans heavily with country overtones. However, for the most part, the album is music of the heartland, or "Americana" if you need a label, because it will appeal to a much deeper and broader audience.

"Pieces" is a slinky, sliding blues-driven jam that should be included in everyone's summer roadtrip soundtrack this year, even if you're just going down the street.

Like a character from Edgar Alan Poe, Trouble is personified in the heavy waltz piece named "December," and in it Trouble simply looms as a dark, silent sentinel. 

Regarding the song "Honey, I've Flown" - I don't know what else to say but, if you can listen to this song with Nash and Neff's beautifully blending vocals and not get chills... you might need to seek medical attention.

However, there is simply an inexplicable something about the song "Needle" that makes it my favorite song on the album.  The chord progression, lyrics, harmony, rhythm and all of the component pieces of the track come together in such a splendid way that I feel this song could be a potential classic in the same category with Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down."

If anyone is looking for a simple, one-line summary of the album - the kind you might find posted in big quotation marks somewhere - mine would probably look like this:

"'Box of Bullets' by Shiny and the Spoon is simply a gorgeous collection of sounds that everyone should get to know. We should all be proud that this band calls Cincinnati their home."

Box of Bullets is available from iTunesSpotifyBandcamp and CDbaby.  Shiny and the Spoon will also be part of Cincinnati's inaugural Buckle-Up Festival, performing on Saturday July 19 at 2:45 on the Lawn Stage.